Fossil-fuel subsidies: Helping the richest get richer

By:  Bill McKibben

Last week, the Senate voted on a proposal by New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez to end some of the billions of dollars in handouts enjoyed by the fossil-fuel industry. The Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act was a curiously skimpy bill that targeted only oil companies, and just the five richest of them at that. Left out were coal and natural gas. Even so, the proposal didn't pass.

But that hasn't stopped President Obama from calling for an end to oil subsidies at every stop on his early presidential-campaign-plus-fundraising blitz. And this month Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will introduce a much tougher bill that tackles all fossil fuels and their purveyors.

Even if Congress can't pass a bill to end them, those subsidies are worth focusing on. After all, we're talking about somewhere between $10 billion and $40 billion annually (depending on what you count) in freebie cash for an energy industry already making historic profits.

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